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Page last updated at 09:59 GMT, Wednesday, 26 August 2009 10:59 UK

France uncovers 'Eta weapons'

A cache of explosives hidden next to a substation in France's southern Herault region
French police say ETA is increasingly hiding weapons in rural areas

French police have uncovered a cache of weapons and explosives allegedly used by the Basque separatist group, Eta.

The weapons dump, in southern France's remote Herault region, included pistols, explosives and detonators.

French and Spanish police have been working together closely following last month's bomb attacks on the island of Majorca and the Spanish mainland.

French officials said the weapons discoveries had "dealt a very big blow" to Eta's supply network.

"There hasn't been a find on this scale since 2004," said Paris Prosecutor Jean-Claude Marin.

The find is the 12th uncovered since 19 August when three suspected members of the group were arrested.

Damaged logistics

Aitzol Etxaburu Arteche, 30, Andoni Sarasola, 36, and Alberto Machain Beraza, 28, were charged on Monday with joining an illegal group intent on carrying out acts of terror.

The trio were suspected of being the group's logistical planners, says the BBC's Steve Kingstone, in Madrid.

But, he says, despite both government's declarations, no-one is claiming the militants are fatally weakened.

In the past, he says, bold assertions by politicians have always been followed by fresh attacks.

A total of 800 kilos of explosive substances, 15 ready-to-use bombs, an automatic rifle, 18 pistols, thousands of rounds of ammunition, 244 detonators and stolen car plates have been seized in the raids over the past seven days.

Police said there had been a shift in the group's tactics about where to hide supplies.

"Eta has changed its technique. It prefers the rural environment to the urban one, and small caches to large ones," Mr Marin said.

Eta, a militant group fighting for the creation of an independent Basque homeland, has been blamed for more than 820 deaths during its separatist campaign.

The group claimed responsibility for the bombings in Spain in July, carried out just ahead of the 50th anniversary of its founding.

More than 40 people were injured by a bomb blast in Burgos, northern Spain, then two Civil Guards were killed by a car bomb in Majorca.



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